Republicans celebrated a major victory, as the day was comprised entirely of powerful questioning from the GOP that exposed the fact that various impeachment witnesses felt there was absolutely no wrong doing on Trump’s phone call with President Zelensky – laying waste to Democrat’s hopes to impeach the president.
House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes opened his remarks by welcoming people to “Act Two of today’s circus,” dismissing the inquiry as a partisan exercise.
“It’s an ambitious attack to deprive the American people of their right to elect a president that the Democrats don’t like,” Nunes said. “The chairman of this committee claims that democracy is under threat. If that’s true, it’s not the president who poses the danger.”
“Did anyone ever ask you to bribe or extort anyone at any time during your time in the White House?” Nunes, asked at one point in Tuesday’s afternoon hearing.
Former National Security Council (NSC) aide Tim Morrison: “No.”
Former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker: “No.”
Then, Rep. Elise Stefanik covered similar ground in asking the witnesses about Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: “Mr. Morrison, you were on that call, and there was no quid pro quo, correct? No bribery? No extortion?”
“Correct,” Morrison replied in response to each question.
“And, Ambassador Volker, I presume you got a readout of the call. … Was there any reference to withholding aid? Any reference to bribery? Any reference to quid pro quo? Any reference to extortion?”
“No, there was not,” Volker replied, again and again.
And, Volker testified repeatedly that he never received any indications at all that there was an improper quid pro quo with Ukraine, in which the Trump administration allegedly sought a probe of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for military aid.
Morrison and Volker’s testimony was sought by the GOP, and the two undercut Democrats’ poll-tested claims of White House “bribery” and a cover-up.
Later in the day, Volker made clear he had not seen anything to support Democrats’ contention that Trump improperly withheld foreign aid to Ukraine as a means of forcing an investigation into the Bidens’ dealings in the country.
Asked again whether he saw any evidence that Trump had committed “bribery” — the term Democrats have taken to using, after focus groups indicated that it would help them sell impeachment to voters — Volker was unequivocal that he had not.
In fact, Volker said, Trump never linked any probe of Burisma or the Bidens to any military aid.
“I have only seen an allegation of bribery in the last week,” Volker said. “I was never involved in anything that I considered to be bribery at all, or extortion.”
In a lengthy opening statement, Volker said he didn’t have any problem with pushing Ukraine to open an investigation into Burisma or corruption.
“It has long been U.S. policy under multiple administrations to urge Ukraine to investigate and fight internal corruption,” Volker said.
For his part, Morrison, who served as the NSC’s senior director of European and Russian affairs, told lawmakers Trump didn’t want tax dollars funding Ukrainian corruption and remarked that he wasn’t concerned Trump’s calls with Ukraine’s leader were tied to his political interests.
Among the biggest revelations Tuesday morning came when Lt. Colonel Vindman acknowledged communications with an unnamed intelligence official — during an at-times tense exchange with Republicans, immediately raising apparent questions over whether he could have been a source of information for the anonymous whistleblower who reported the call.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff interfered, attempting to stop Vindman from destroying their hopes for impeachment any further.
After consulting his attorney, Vindman said, “Per the advice of my counsel, I’ve been advised not to answer the specific questions about members of the intelligence community.”
Still, Vindman told lawmakers, “I do not know who the whistleblower is.”
That claim didn’t hold water with Republicans and prompted Donald Trump Jr. to accuse Vindman of perjury. “I’d like them to be treated like I would be if I lied to Congress,” he told Fox News late Tuesday.
Morrison said his understanding was that Trump generally was skeptical of foreign aid and wanted to make sure that taxpayers were “getting their money’s worth.”
“The president was concerned that the United States seemed to bear the exclusive brunt of security assistance to Ukraine,” Morrison said. “He wanted to see the Europeans step up and contribute more security assistance.”
Morrison, though, suggested the impeachment brouhaha was predictable partisan politics as usual.
“I feared at the time of the call on July 25th how its disclosure would play in Washington’s political climate,” Morrison said in his opening statement. “My fears have been realized.”